I work in a small to mid size rural district with what I consider to be a fair amount of tech resources available. I'm curious as to how other districts support technology as far as Network administrators, technicians, etc. When something breaks what is the process to get it fixed? How many people make up your tech support team? Do you HAVE a tech support team? What size district do you work?

Tags: support, technology

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I work in a high school of about 1000 students (about 3000 in the district). We have 3 tech support folks in the building and they supervise the computer center as well as run tech support for the classrooms. When we have a problem, there is a help desk email that gets processed by the district tech office (I imagine for tracking purposes) and then gets passed on to the particular school. Usually, there is a response/fix within the day, occasionally it stretches out to a day or two later. The folks are also open to just dropping by the computer center for small fixes, but they prefer the big stuff gets referenced through the help desk email system.
We have just under 1900 students spread out in 6 buildings. We have full-time techs stationed at the high school and middle school and one additional tech that is shared among the elementary buildings. When we first started we had a help desk email system but found that didn't always work the best because everyone wasn't sure who was going to respond so we quit that. People now know to contact the tech for their respective building. In addition, the techs have cell phones so they can respond within 24 hours of receiving a call for help. I also work in the district as the Instructional Technology Specialist. The techs basically respond to hardware issues and I train teachers in implementation and how to use specific software and web based resources. I also troubleshoot software issues. We have a "head tech" who has a CIS degree and who manages the email and servers for the district. He deals with the more technical side of the network, keeping it up and running. We also have a data specialist who keeps our parent portal and gradebook system up and running.
I work for a school district of about 2000 students. We have two full time techs, and one that works 3 days a week. We also have a lab person in the High School and Middle School labs and one that is shared between the Primary (k-2) and INtermediate School (3-5). The lab people are resource persons for their buildings, and help teachers with some of their problems. We have a web based help desk system(since 1999) that staff must use in order to get help. Most tickets are closed within a day. We have about 850 computers (750 windows, 100 mac), around 60 networked printers. We use Novell Netware 6.5, GroupWise and Zenworks. I am one of the technicians / Network Administrator. Staff are not allowed to call us or talk to us in the halls (sometimes it makes you feel like you have the plague *LOL*). Lab staff is able to change students passwords, so we don't get bogged down with those issues, which is a great help!
I run the Computer Lab in a K-8 Catholic School in CA with 300+ students. I AM the IT+Network Admin. guy and WHEN I have a break between classes, I attempt to fix stuff. (Printers are my biggest headache.) In terms of services, I have to weigh my time vs. the benefits of outsourcing. Our teachers use Google mail (branded) and love it. The SMS is Optionc.com so that's another potential headache averted. That is not to say the job is not without its challenges but I have to consider my sanity in the process.

We are currently exploring open source firewall/filtering solutions and would welcome any input the members of this network would provide. Also, check out my blog for educators for whom Network Administration is not their primary function. We can learn from each other!
That's my plan, but to move the proxy/filtering/firewall services off to a Linux box. Thanks for your reply.
Squid is an excellent proxy server. It can do content filtering, and there is also Dan's Guardian availble (filter list). I just started using Squid in January (I don't use content filtering yet, as we have filter service, but I am looking into it), but it seems to work very well, and it seems to be a very active community. The two times I had questions, both were answered within 24 hours (it was working fine, but I wanted to do something else). I would recommend it to anyone, there are also free filters besides Dan's Guardian.
How many users would Squid and Dan's Guardian support? Or, what hardware should I have for 100 users? Thanks.
I am no expert on either of these, but from what I have read and dealings with squid so far, you don't need much of a machine. My squid box handles approximately 25-50 simultaneous users, it is a P4 3GHz with 512MB ram and 40GB hard drive. Here is a link to Dans Guardian page that might help a little. http://dansguardian.org/?page=whousesit

From what I have read and understand, SATA drives would be better than IDE (ATA), and smaller, faster access drives are better than larger slower access drives. A seperate volume for the cache is recommended by many (I don't have it that way). I think my machine could probably very easily do 100 users. The most important things are faster access drives and enough memory. Processor doesn't appear to be much of a factor. I think I would be looking at dual hard drives (mirrorred, for reliability, 40-80GB, 1-2Gb of memory. But I think you could probably get by with 1 40GB Drive and 512MB -1GB ram.
I use Ubuntu server edition, and have webmin installed for managing the server. I use SARG for looking at the log files. Webmin makes managing a snap. I just followed one of the many howto's available, and it works great! I also use putty and installed openssh for managing.
If you have an older computer "lying" around, give it a try. I think you will be amazed (when I first set it up, I had it on a celeron, with 256mb, and I think that could probably have done everything that you need).
The only thing that I would recommend, is that you try to stay away from the GUI interface (or unload it), as it adds a lot more overhead and gets in the way. When I use webmin and look at my resources, even when the server is busy, the resource usage barely moves! Once you have webin installed and running, you will never have to look at the server screen again (almost), as all updating, etc can be done from webmin.
Let me know if you need anything else!
What kind of printers do you have?
Do you inkjet printers connected to workstations?
If maintaining printers is one of your biggest problems, you might want to try and address this issue. Since putting all of our printers on the network back in 1997, printers went from our biggest problem area, to one that doesn't even exist. Espescially if a person is responsible for the printer, and they are trained (how to replace toner, fuser, paper, etc). We went from printers on all teachers computers, to centralized (1 per grade, wing). It is much cheaper for toner than it is for ink. By addressing our biggest problems, we free up more time to address the little problems. A lot of times the biggest problems will still be our biggest problem, but if we can reduce the problem, we get more time to spend on the other problems that can be solved, if we have the time!
I work in a large suburban district which also has a good deal of tech resources available. They are good about providing hardware and we have not had many problems with getting the tech people in to service hardware issues.

However, applications, updates and access are becoming such an issue that the use of technology has started to be crippled. It is not uncommon to find that the web site you were planning to use for a lesson has been blocked or that you need the latest version of an add-on to use the application. We are unable to download updates. There are differences in the level of access available on different machines, so we have to be careful to try everything on the machines we will be using with a student using their account. A perfect example of this issue is that our district is offering technology classes has had sites we were using blocked.
Stu, I am the technology coordinator for a rural SW Pennsylvania K12 district with about 2100 students and about 155 teachers. Its just me and another guy taking care of it all! Computers, servers, network, phones, security cameras, you name it....if it connects to something else....we ultimately end up being the ones to figure it out. We don't use any outside companies for anything, we install it, fix it, replace it. Whatever needs done, we do it ourselves. Our budget is next to negative. I'm insterested in discussing with others best practices with limited resources. The school environment presents challenges that no other IT professionals will ever have to deal with. Every computer is a shared computer and that makes for some difficult obstacles to overcome. I am more than willing to share and learn what works and what doesn't.
"....if it connects to something else....we ultimately end up being the ones to figure it out." I hear ya on this one, although I did draw the line when someone asked us to fix a toaster!

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